Yo, yo. This thing'll be a long one. Over 10,000 words! I guess I didn't want to keep the regular readers (indeed, those are confirmed to exist now, yay!) waiting another full chapter for the racing action.
SA14: How Fast Was That? – Part 2
Carl paid no attention to the shouting man. He had only returned to the drivers’ center for a short moment because the long practice session had left him thirsty for another Sprunk – besides, he wasn’t going to respond to anyone who tried calling at him that rudely. The least Chester Chesterfield could do was refer to him by name, as he’d been introduced already during the official meeting, but that was apparently beyond his manners.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” Chester said impatiently, pulling Carl’s shoulder and walking around him to see his face. Carl still pretended to be oblivious to the rich kid.
“Do I recognize you from somewhere?” Chester continued, voice full of contempt.
“Yeah, I’m the motherf*cker who used to steal your lunch money at school, bitch.” Carl said finally after a lengthy gulp of Sprunk.
“Good try, but I didn’t go to school with no ni**ers.”
“The f*ck you just say?!” Carl almost jumped up from his stool and tried to grab Chester, who promptly took some steps back.
“Whoa, I knew you’d react primitively, but come on. It wouldn’t be fun if stewards banned you before the race even starts.” Chester stated, stroking his hair as if to try and look important.
“What do you want?” Carl asked, arms crossed to signify his own disdain towards the man.
“I know you’ve got nothing to lose out there, boy. But guess what, I f*cking do. I think Hilary King won’t be playing fair on track, and I could do with a wingman.”
“You got some nerve, dickhead.” Carl growled, taking a step towards Chester, who backed out even further.
“Think with your head now, boy! You might get all pissy when I say a few naughty words, but is it worth it to lash out at me when I could make you rich? Just hold back Hilary enough that he’ll score less than me, and we’re golden. I win the championship, fatbag loses his dignity, and you walk away with enough cash to get you a – decent house or something.”
Carl just stared at the entitled man, who apparently thought money could buy him out of treating everyone around him horribly.
“No f*ckin’ deal, buddy.” he stated coldly.
“What?! You’re seriously getting on my nerves now! What do I need to promise you? 500 grand for ensuring Hilary loses? That, that should be enough to feed your god-knows-how-huge litter of kids too for another year, right?”
Carl just laughed at his antics, sensing the desperation in his voice. “Ain’t got kids actually and don’t want any either, thank you very much. We done here, or do I need to educate you a little on what ‘no’ means?”
“But what about my bet on myself? Do you know how much money I have on the line here?” Chester yelled, on the verge of throwing another tantrum.
“Not so much that you wouldn’t survive if you lose. Besides – if you’s so paranoid about losing, why not place your bet on someone else?” Carl suggested. To him the idea was perfectly rational, though just as he expected, this only prompted a vicious barrage of shouting from Chester, which Carl dismissed with a wave of the hand as he left the scene. Quite frankly, he’d seen enough of the kid to last him a lifetime by now.
The talk with Chester sparked a new idea in him though. Normally Carl felt like he could never catch a lucky break in betting, but this time random chance wouldn’t determine his success – all he’d need to do was drive hard and ruthless. There were no bookies to be seen in the scene yet, and assuming they were yet to arrive, Carl had ample time to have a little chat with his overweight “friend”, who at quick glance wasn’t anywhere in the club at the moment. Carl walked out the door to check the garage, when he ran into Cesar.
“Hi, CJ. Had enough practice for now?”
“Eh, one’s gotta take a break at some point. You seen Hilary?”
“Why would you ever wanna be around that fat asshole?” Cesar asked with a frown. “It’s like he can’t exist for two minutes without getting to personally insult someone. Makes me think this Chester guy is an angel next to him.” He sounded like he had just been on the receiving end of whatever bullsh*t Hilary was spewing out.
“Your ‘angel’ just gave me a dozen new reasons to hate his guts like never before. No, listen to this – if this idea I got comes true, I’ll make a huge gain by winnin’ the race, and if not, I got a backup plan that involves a rich kid losing the title, and Hilary payin’ a generous fee for my services.”
Cesar was still not happy at all. “So you’re picking sides now? And please don’t tell me your plan involves either gambling or sabotage.”
“Actually it’s a bit of both.” Carl clarified.
He was a little disappointed Cesar was absolutely not interested in joining his scheme, but being an optimist, he admitted to himself that things could’ve been a lot worse. Cesar wasn’t going to report his actions to the stewards, or try to put a stop to him – but he did warn Carl that he was getting in way over his head and might regret it later. At least he also finally told at the end of their discussion that the last time he saw Hilary, he was whining about something to Arnaud next to the garage. Carl went on his merry way, secretly hoping Cesar would run into Chester and change his mind that way.
“...and then I lost at least 0.2 seconds in the highway hairpin. It’s bullsh*t, really.” Hilary explained his apparent shortcomings just where Cesar told he’d be, giving the Sabre Turbo sitting next to him an angry look as if it was the car’s fault.
“It’s hard to get a good run out of it, but what I usually do in that situation is alter the suspension, make that hot rod oversteer less.” Arnaud suggested as Carl subtly slipped to the scene.
The conversation about car setups quickly came to a full stop. “Well, if it ain’t the newbie.” Hilary said with an unpleasant laugh. Arnaud was less condescending, not saying a word and just looking him in the eyes. Carl wondered if he knew he was a Families OG.
“What we got goin’ on here, boys? Man, Hilary, you’ve gotten fatter since we last met. It ain’t good for your health, y’know. Exercising could balance out your eating habits.” Carl said, head shaking as he pretended to inspect the body of his opponent.
Hilary’s face lighted up red. “Did you come here to say anything useful?” he demanded after a few moments of silence during which he failed to come up with a rebuttal.
“Why do you think I’d ever reach out to talk to you – unless it’s about business?”
“Oh, right... That kinda business?” Carl confirmed his suspicions with a nod. “Arnaud, you’re gonna have to leave us for a moment. We need a certain degree of privacy.”
“Are you absolutely sure, Hilary? We both know what could come out of a situation like this.” Arnaud spoke up for the first time, appearing entirely distrusting of Carl, who could only hope the Frenchman didn’t see right through their planning.
“This’ll be nothing like what happened with you. Now, please – I’m growing nervous, I need to hear what he has to say soon.” Hilary said impatiently, hands twitching as he spoke.
“Of course... When practice’s over, you going to join me in the Pig Pen club? There is no better place to discuss cars than while surrounded by lovely ladies.”
“No, wait, we can’t do that. I – I’m still banned.” Hilary stammered.
“Well, suit yourself then.”
Arnaud was visibly disappointed as he walked away, probably inside the drivers’ center. Carl tried holding back his childish giggles trying to imagine what had got Hilary banned from a strip club – on the other hand, maybe he didn’t need to know such things.
“So, what now? Is this about the betting?” Hilary asked.
“You catch on quick. There any big bucks involved in this sh*t?”
“Heh, knew you were a total noobie.” Hilary’s insult stopped when Carl extended his fist in a threatening pose. “Right, umm, of course it’s big. Especially now that it’s the final round when people get to bet on who wins the championship, along with the individual race win of course. You, err, will bet on me, won’t you?”
“No, I been thinkin’ of Arnaud. It goes like this: you and Chester take each other out so hard you both get a 50 point penalty, and Arnaud wins, surpasses Deco, and I go home rich enough to buy Chester’s mansion right outta under him.” Carl joked.
“I knew you weren’t serious as soon as you said Arnaud’s gonna beat Deco.” Hilary pointed out.
“Why? I thought y’all were friends? You ain’t got even a little faith in him?”
“He might be my best buddy out of these, but honestly, everyone but him knows he won’t ultimately have a snowball’s chance in hell versus that slippery snake in the Comet, and you’ll see why soon enough. Maybe if I just could wreck him for once...” Hilary looked like he was having a sweet dream.
“Y’know, I came to you ‘cause I got an idea that benefits us both even more than that last one. I go bet on myself and win the race. You bet on your championship, then we take care of Chester like we agreed – in the end, long as I get the win, you don’t need to pay up and get to walk off with both your championship money and gambling gains. Deal?”
Hilary looked stunned. Carl felt that was a clear giveaway that the man had been blown away by the suggestion, and they’d be able to work it out with minimal effort.
“Yeah, deal. Abso-f*cking-lutely. Just gotta wait for the damn bookies. They’re so late they missed the beginning of practice completely. Should’ve seen my epic slide in the El Corona corner!”
“Well, at least your odds are gonna be a bit worse then? You’ll make more cash?” Carl asked.
“What kinda attitude is that?! It’s not just about the money, it’s about the pride! I’ll already be ashamed to f*ckin’ hell if Chester has better odds than me prior to the start! It’s just not meant to be that way!” Hilary lashed out. Great, Carl thought, another lesson on irrationality.
“Whatever, homie, can we go inside and wait for ‘em? You can take a piss too when we at it, ‘cause you look like you can’t hold it much longer.” Carl suggested, leading his productive business partner back to the drivers’ center.
The bookies showed up soon enough, when the track had emptied and everyone was anxiously waiting for their chance to place bets. There were two guys, who brought in with them a bunch of charts that showed analyses of drivers’ previous performances, which would then determine their odds. Of course, with Carl and Cesar being new to the scheme, they weren’t included in this complex algorithm, and thus Cesar went straight to the bookies to discuss their own odds. Carl stayed within hearing distance, but mainly focused on reading the charts along with others. He could see that the first three were obvious favorites, though fourth and fifth places were rated quite a lot higher than the rest of the bunch as well.
RACE WIN – LOS SANTOS GP
Deco – 3:1
Hilary – 5:1
Chester – 6:1
Arnaud – 12:1
Mikhail – 15:1
“Hey, Cesar! Didn’t expect to see you ‘round here. In to take the old Savanna to its greatest ride?”
“Nice as that sounds, I got some better wheels now. How about a ’91 Elegy in prime condition, with a turbocharged engine producing 665 horsepower, all unnecessary parts taken off for lighter weight, installed new racing brakes and intercooler, and...”
The bookies were astounded. “Looks like we have a serious dark horse contender here! What do you say we give our buddy here a chance of, I dunno, 1 in 6? He won’t have as much pressure as our prime contenders do, after all, and then there’s the factor of home advantage...” one of them pondered.
“Yeah, we can do that. With Cesar on board, I doubt the rest of the field can really get much done, so we can drive their odds down a bit...” the other said, and immediately began re-calculating.
Hilary – 4:1
Chester – 5:1
Other – 91:1
Chester’s whining already echoed in the hall, as the others could predict. “What the f*ck? Just ‘cause I have one bad run at Stilwater, you tout Hilary as the favorite? I’m still the damn points leader!”
“Why’s Mikhail ahead of Wong? Just ‘cause he had one win doesn’t make him a more likely candidate here today.” another person said in outrage in the midst of the crowd.
“Ah, you must be the other local – erm, hero.” one bookie said to Carl as the other was still busy with his math work. His voice was noticably less friendly than when he addressed Cesar – a big warning sign right away.
“Sure, shoulda been clear.” muttered Carl.
“Brett, what do you think? Doesn’t seem like much of a hotshot to me... could maybe get, like, thirteenth on a good day? Right down there with Mario and all those?” the bookie asked his colleague.
“Yeah, I’d get behind that.” Brett said, only having had one short look at Carl before going back to his calculations. “100:1 sounds about right for that guy.”
“You should’ve seen the practice though, Joel, he actually maintained about the same pace as me...” Deco stated to get their attention, only for both to shake their heads.
“No, no, no, we can’t just take drivers’ words for granted here. 100:1 it is and will remain that way, we just democratically decided that. Though...” Joel said, looking now at a visibly angered Carl, “if you want, we can save Brett any extra work and offer 100:0 if that’s what you prefer.”
The drivers’ center erupted into the laughter of almost all the racers and both of the bookies, Hilary and Chester being the loudest and the latter pointing a finger at Carl like some malicious child. The fact that Cesar didn’t even smile, but rather showed a displeased scowl at Joel’s direction, was of little comfort for Carl at this stage. He was fuming, having been turned into laughing stock just because those assholes didn’t know him beforehand... without even thinking, he was already on his way out of the building, ignoring Cesar’s pleas that sounded like they came from somewhere far away. Just before exiting, he turned to face the crowd once more, and the laughter slowly stopped as the drivers expected him to say something.
“Just you f*ckin’ wait.” he told bluntly, then stormed out and slammed the door shut with a loud bang. Some of the drivers continued to laugh, if not a bit awkwardly now that the target was gone, while Cesar just shook his head slowly, almost knowing that whatever Carl had in mind wouldn’t end well for someone. As he went to take a seat and think of what to do, he could however notice some racers, primarily backmarkers like Ken’ichi and Sven, visibly checking him out, trying to see if he really was as good of a sleeper pick to win as the bookies were implying.
Carl was on a mission. He sped off the scene in his car, following the track towards Idlewood while having already whipped out his phone. His initial idea was to grab whatever cash he had from his house, but that probably wouldn’t be enough to convince the jerks at the drivers’ center that he meant business – so instead, he rung up a contact he deemed trustworthy for this situation. His first attempted call was never answered, and before he tried again, he’d already reached the point where it was time to divert from the course.
“Hey, you! Open this barrier, I got an emergency!” Carl exclaimed to a lone track marshall, looking bored as no cars had passed for quite some time.
“But I have clear orders to not allow any cars off the race track and...” stammered the man.
“This change your mind? I’ll be right back!” Carl interrupted, tossing 500 dollars from his wallet at him, and promptly getting the portable barrier moved. Who said money didn’t open doors?
Carl tried calling again, and after a painful wait, during which he’d covered several blocks on his way to the northwestern part of town, he heard the voice he was waiting for at last.
“Andreas Richter on the phone... what is it? You called at a bad time.”
“Hey, it’s CJ. I really need to...”
“CJ? Did you and Daniel recover the package already?” Andreas asked.
“Oh, f*ck. Forget what I just said, I should’ve remembered we also employed you guys from Grove Street and whatnot... you can tell I’m not at my sharpest right now. So what is it you require?”
“I...” Carl hesitated for a moment. “I need to ask your boss for a loan. Like, I’m talkin’ 500 grand.” That’s about right, he figured, matches Hilary’s reward and makes me a multimillionaire if I win.
Andreas went quiet briefly, probably surprised at the request. “You do realize... my boss does not take kindly to people who can’t pay their debts?”
“And I realize he’s the only one rich enough to help me. Please – if something goes wrong, you know I’ll make it up to y’all, right?” There was already some despair in Carl’s voice; he wished that wouldn’t screw up his chances.
Andreas sighed. “I happen to be at the mansion right now... just a moment and I’ll let you have a talk with Mr. Schrader. I just think you’re not making a rational choice.”
Carl had felt a bit anxious about getting to talk to the boss, but ultimately it didn’t go as badly as he thought. In fact, Schrader was in good mood that day, based on his tone at least, and more than willing to show a green light as long as Carl accepted he’d take full responsibility for his actions. A meeting was arranged in a quiet back alley in Rodeo, as Schrader wanted to eliminate the possibility of someone following Carl to his mansion and finding out about the partnership. When the talk was over, he noticed some alerts on his phone and discovered he had five missed calls from Cesar, all within the span of a couple minutes at best. As he expected, the phone rang again just moments after he’d hung up on Schrader, and this time he was able to take it, although he could predict what was coming up.
“CJ, please, think about this! Those assholes wanted to get on your nerves, are you gonna let them know they’ve succeeded?”
“I’m gonna let ‘em know they f*cked with the wrong person. When this is all over, they’ll be f*cking B-R-O-K-E ‘cause I’m about to hit the jackpot.” Carl said. He felt he had nothing else to tell Cesar besides that, and hung up before any kind of reply.
Schrader’s goon (someone Carl hadn’t met before this time) was in the scene of exchange much faster than Carl expected; prompting a nod from him in appreciation. Before receiving the money, he had to sign a couple of forms “to ensure you won’t weasel your way out of this” which would’ve sounded threatening on any other day, but right now, that was nothing but an empty phrase to him as he did what was told without bothering to read half the text, then took off with the money, all packed up in a nice little briefcase that he stuck on the ZR-350’s passenger seat. The encounter was over almost as fast as it had taken him to come up with the plan, which was just what he needed – he didn’t wish to keep the bookies waiting now.
After getting back to the pit area, driving at near qualifying speed and continuing to ignore Cesar’s calls, Carl marched right in with the briefcase in hand, being glad to see Joel and Brett still around, currently caught up in a discussion with Deco and Cesar. One by one, the racers began to notice he was back, and began frantically whispering to one another, but it wasn’t on top of Carl’s mind right now. He walked straight over to the bookies, and caught their attention by shoving Brett in the shoulder.
“Hey, assholes. Time to gamble.” he said bluntly.
“Look who it is! Bringing some money on the table now, aren’t ya? Umm, who will it be? Your friend over there does have a legit chance, y’know...” Joel said, still smug as ever.
“Oh f*ck. CJ, if that’s what I think it is, please just – leave it. It’s not worth...” Cesar tried to plead one last time. Next to him, Deco tilted his head in curiosity, while Hilary tried to hold back a giggle in the background, Arnaud next to him observing Carl emotionlessly.
“Too late now. And no, he ain’t my pick for this one. Here’s 500 grand on me winning this race, and I expect it back hundred-fold when we done.”
Carl shoved the briefcase in Joel’s lap, and walked away without another word. There was only one thing on his mind now apart from winning: must run Chester off the road, must run Chester off the road... The dumbfounded bookies set the case on the table and began to count the money, racers now moving over to the scene to peek a look – with the exception of Cesar. He was the only one who knew Carl couldn’t just produce that much cash out of nowhere without it coming from some kind of shady source, and intended to find out right now. Carl was about to drive off the pits already and only come back for the next day’s qualifying, though Cesar was able to convince him to take him along by claiming he’d like a ride home.
“CJ, be honest with me, please. What was that all about?” he asked once they’d covered some distance from the pits.
Carl banged the dashboard. “I shoulda known you’d try to find out. Look, it’s nothing, I just taught ‘em a lesson. Saw the look on the bookies’ faces? Fools couldn’t believe they eyes. If I’m racin’, I ain’t gonna let myself turn into laughing stock before we even start.”
“Bet they’ll be crying about it all the way to the bank. Look, where’d that cash come from? We both know the Families are broke, and you won’t ever go so low as to steal from us...”
“It’s... confidential information. Honestly.” Carl said, tired.
“So confidential you won’t share with a good friend?”
“It ain’t like that, more like... I could get in trouble if I tell.” Carl told him, knowing that was true.
“Your secret’s safe with me, CJ. That’s what friends are for.” Cesar assured.
The look on his face told Carl he was serious about this, and it was perhaps best to just relent already and give both of them peace of mind. Carl told him all he knew about Felix Schrader and his “organization” that acted more like an extremely subtle mafia family, about how LB had originally been one to reach out to them and how Carl took the most interest in serving the mob out of his fellow Families OG’s, which probably made it possible for him to borrow the money in the first place. However, this only drove Cesar to further nag at him.
“So now you either win the race or get a literal 20 foot pole up your ass from these German motherf*ckers for not having the cash to pay them off? Just – what the f*ck is wrong with you? I’ve seen my homies do some crazy sh*t in the past, holmes, no doubt, but that’s just – that’s suicidal, CJ! Can’t believe you’d put your life at risk just to defend your pride!”
“Hey, whoa, it ain’t that bad. I can lose the race, long as Hilary gets the championship and I get just enough from him to pay Schrader off–“
“CJ, there’s always two sides to your crazy gamble! What if Chester runs Hilary off the road at the start and causes him to score no points? Then you’re already f*cked out of a cut of his money!”
“Well, I could provoke him to the point where he gets himself a penalty...” Carl mumbled.
“Of course, should’ve known you’d somehow find a third side of the coin somewhere. Seriously, just go home, take a rest, and think about your idiotic choices for a moment. Maybe you’ll learn something eventually... see you around.” Cesar told him off angrily, exited the car at the spot of the track closest to his home, and just walked the rest of the way. Carl didn’t even have the chance to ask him for on-track help, and felt that it perhaps wasn’t wise to phone him about it afterwards. If anything, he thought Cesar could do with some thinking himself, to properly understand where Carl was coming from.
That night, he slept incredibly badly, with the thoughts of his best non-Grove Street friend being angry with him, and not having the heart to tell Sweet or the others about the gamble that could have just a tiny chance of him walking home empty-handed and in debt. He had a nightmare where he was driving Deco’s Comet – the distinctive yellow color gave it away – and was already about to win the race dominantly, when a giant Hilary came out of nowhere and blocked the road right after the last corner. Carl tried to pass underneath Hilary’s legs and get across the finish line, but his fat arms grabbed the car off the road and held it up in the air next to his ugly, sweaty, laughing face. Then, Hilary turned into Schrader, who pointed down at the track to show Chester getting to the checkered flag first, and told Carl that he was now in a world of trouble... In the crowd alongside the final straightaway was Sweet in worn-out, patched up clothes that made him look like a homeless beggar. Even all the way up in the air, Carl could hear his booing, and at the corner of his eye he then spotted Sweet picking up a pistol and aiming it at his own temple...
Carl woke up by falling out of bed in panic and hitting his head on the floor. Sweating even worse than Hilary did 24/7, he forced himself up from the floor (it was bloody cold, as if the heating wasn’t working properly), got dressed, and placed a bandage over the spot where his head had been hit. It still hurt like a bitch when he went downstairs for breakfast, but at least he no longer felt dizzy at that point, probably a good thing with the upcoming qualifying in mind. He was not going to stress too much about that, but did know that it was a great opportunity to show the bookies he was a threat to be reckoned with even for the best of drivers.
Back at the pits, none of the racers paid any particular attention to Carl this time, everyone mostly focusing on their own conversations. He could notice that Cesar was perhaps purposefully avoiding any contact with him – there went his hopes of the Azteca having forgiven him overnight. Throughout the waiting period that went by painfully slowly, no one reached out to talk to him, though at least it helped him focus on the upcoming drive. At least the rules were simple: everyone would make two laps, the faster of them counting for the purposes of setting the starting line-up.
The qualifying went surprisingly well for him. He and Cesar were, as stated by the rulebook, the first ones to take it to track, and Carl was pleased to find out he’d just barely beaten the Mexican’s time once he had completed his runs. He thought he could’ve been a bit faster than that, but on his second lap, he got slightly distracted upon seeing a familiar-looking man standing near an S-curve in Idlewood this time – the same man that had looked suspiciously interested in Carl and Carl only during practice. He wondered, after getting out of his car in the pits and watching others head for their fast laps, if the man knew that he knew about his repeated appearances by now.
At least Carl assumed he was relatively competitive, because the next few drivers – presumably backmarkers who’d barely scored any points thus far – were a long way off his pace. The first real challenge to him or Cesar came from Australian-born racer Bruce, who, along with all the others coming after him, was getting eeriely close to their times. Finally, the fifth-last man to take it to track, Gao Wong, knocked Carl out of pole position... but only barely, sparking hope that while the pole money had been lost, at least even the experienced drivers struggled to beat him.
When Chester had completed his laps as the last driver, the order was settled. Deco beat everyone by over half a second to take pole, but behind him it was significantly closer – second to sixth places were occupied by Wong, Arnaud, Carl, Hilary and Cesar respectively, each separated from one another by mere milliseconds. The biggest surprise was Chester, who was only tenth fastest out of eighteen, something that sparked plenty of chattering as soon as his times were revealed to the other racers. Of course, as soon as he came back to park his car, he assured everyone within hearing distance that he had been distracted by spectators and expected better crowd control from the organizers. His misfortune at least made Carl smirk, figuring that whoever had caught Chester’s attention in the middle of a fast lap had done him a nice favor.
At the conclusion, everyone gathered up inside for the post-qualifying meeting, where the lead organizer was already waiting for them. Once all racers had taken a seat from wherever they could find free space, the man spoke up.
“Well, that does it. Final qualifying run of the season went off without a hitch, didn’t it?” he asked energetically, probably trying to fire up the crowd a bit. Slight mumbling was heard all around, Chester still protesting about unruly spectators.
“Anyway, without further ado, I’d like to extend my congratulations to Carlos ‘Deco’ de Córdoba for his pole position. Could you come here to collect the prize money?”
“Just Deco suffices, thank you very much.” he replied quietly.
There was a mixed reaction of booing and applause as Deco walked up to him, shook hands, collected the check, and started answering some of his clichéd questions.
“Some of them are booing ‘cause they feel this could easily turn into another ass-whooping show. Can’t blame them... he’s done that before.” someone said behind Carl, and it took him a moment to realize the whisperer was addressing him. It was Bruce, the pug-faced guy driving a white Alpha, with whom he had never exchanged a single word before, and only knew him by face and name thanks to Deco’s earlier introduction.
“Yeah? Why don’t they just get better? Or, I dunno, whack him off track?” Carl questioned.
“Like they hadn’t thought of that. He’s quite slippery, though. Always seems to find ways to avoid trouble, only goes for overtakes when he’s certain he can pull them off. Knows how to deal with divebombers too. Hard to beat that.” Bruce explained.
“His style sounds pretty boring then. Doubt that earns a lot of fans.”
“Well, then he does have those moments where he pulls some cinematic overtake out of his ass in a tight situation. Bottom line is, if you see that bright yellow eye strain slowly begin to gain on you, that means he’s got a run, so you better know how to block.”
“Attention, everyone! Now that our pole winner’s been – treated, it’s time for any takers to submit their tokens if they want to reverse the field.” the series chief announced, putting a stop to Carl and Bruce’s promising conversation.
“Chester Chesterfield would like to use his – from the round of Las Venturas.” Chester announced in a self-important voice, and presented a gold-painted circular object to the chief.
“Ooo, no one saw that one coming.” Carl joked silently.
“I flip the starting grid back the right way with my Stilwater token.” Deco said after Chester had returned to his place, and brought his object to the man next.
“Alright, those two tokens end up canceling each other out then, and we’re back to a fastest-first grid. Got any others?” the chief asked, eyes wandering across the room looking for any other takers. For a moment Carl thought he was going to get to keep his fourth place slot, but then, unexpectedly, Arnaud stood up.
“As winner of the Vice City East race, I believe this is the best time to use this.” he said, and for a while Carl was hopeful he’d have had his token stolen or something – but there it was, in one of his pockets, as he offered it forward to the chief. In his disappointment, Carl wondered if it was expected of the racers to state their intent this officially.
“Arnaud – you just qualified third, didn’t you?” Deco asked as he passed by. Others were equally surprised at the decision and stared at Arnaud now, expecting a plausible explanation.
“I’m afraid I cannot just let you run away with this from first place. At least when you’re forced to weave through traffic, I do have a legitimate chance.” he answered, with no further word on the subject, even with Hilary audibly complaining to him and Wong also questioning his call.
“Well, I suppose that does it then.” the series chief said after no one stepped forth again, all others having used up their tokens previously. “Reverse grid it is, and that puts – let me see, Mario and Logan to the front row for tomorrow’s race. Good luck to all, as always. Class dismissed, as my former teacher would say.”
“This’ll be the only time those lads ever get to see the front of the pack...” Bruce laughed to Carl, having to keep his voice significantly down as the two new front starters were sitting just nearby.
Carl waved the surprisingly friendly racer goodbye (still being left wondering about his intentions) as he was about to call it a day and head back home. Sure, the track was available for more practice if anyone wanted to take the chance, but he felt he was just about familiar with all the braking points and tough sections. There was still one more thing to settle, and he’d do that as soon as he got off the track, but before he managed to leave the scene, someone stopped him with a light grab of the shoulder. He half hoped it would be Cesar who’d apologize and offer his help in Carl’s battle against the odds, but didn’t quite get what he wanted this time.
It was Deco, Sprunk can in hand – what else? – looking like he wanted to say something urgent.
“Hey, just wanted to congratulate you on the solid qualifying run. Let’s hope the same momentum carries over to the race, huh?”
“Depends on how well I do in a crowd, I guess. You too – uhh, have fun, may the best man win, and all that sh*t.” Carl said, shrugging.
“Word of advice though. I know starting from the back is stressful and you want to move back to the front soon, but if you can, do your best to save the equipment early on.”
“Why?” Carl asked, feeling that went against his usual style.
“Because if you don’t push yourself too hard, at the end you’ll breeze past guys who did just that and have used up their tires. Hilary still makes that mistake a lot, never considering it’s a long race that you can’t win with one really good lap. Don’t be like him.” Deco warned, though more in an educating style than threatening.
“Yeah, thanks, I guess.” Carl mumbled. To him, the whole advice sounded like a scheme to get him to drive slower than he needed – if anything, it made him feel more wary about Deco and whatever motives he may have had. Nonetheless, he politely said his goodbyes and left the track on a bus specifically sent to pick up the racers who already wanted to leave. He proceeded to exit on the first stop and walk the rest of the way to get a bit of exercise – as well as privacy.
Carl made a phonecall and anxiously waited for the man on the other side to pick up. He did feel a bit bad about the fact he hadn’t contacted said person at all for quite some time, but assured himself he’d begin doing it a bit more often in the future, especially in the scenario where he’d lose his Grove Street friends and pride for making that huge bet...
“Kevin Williamson on the phone.”
“Uhh, hi, Kevin. Remember me? CJ from Roboi’s?” Carl greeted.
“Ah, yes, CJ! Good thing you didn’t call me in the midst of another heist – the distraction would’ve been catastrophic.”
“You call those little stick-ups heists now? Get a grip... anyway, I know this might be odd, but we ain’t known associates or anything like that, so I feel I could do with your help.”
“Let me guess – it’s got something to do with a Los Santos Grand Prix?” Kevin asked, and Carl could tell from his voice he was smirking.
“Wha– how you know that?”
“I read my newspapers, friend. You don’t seem like much of a pre-race favorite, but...”
“Yeah, well, wait ‘till you hear the qualifying results. Anyway, Kevin, since I know your money situation ain’t entirely solid, you could make a decent buck if you could offer some, uhh, off-track assistance. This kid called Chester Chesterfield needs to lose the championship, you see, and–“
“Sabotage? Sorry, no deal. As much as I’d like to damage that guy’s ego – yes, I’m aware of who he is – you’re gonna need someone who isn’t me, and has a damn good cover story to tell if they get caught.”
“B-but – why?” Carl asked, nearly pleading.
“You’d know if you had followed the racing before. That series has really cracked down on sabotage of all kinds ever since its inception. Didn’t you hear of this arrogant kid from the East Coast, name was Dan Sucho, I think? He and a few of his friends got caught trying to sabotage Hilary King once, and let me tell ya, those stewards were ruthless. Not only did he get fined to hell and back, he also completely lost the trust of his fellow racers and has been more or less left out of that legal street racing scheme since.” Kevin explained, being more knowledgeable than Carl could’ve expected.
“But over here, Hilary and Chester are perfectly willing to do it to each other?”
“Only those who ever get caught will end their scheming.”
“Huh... what if I went to the stewards and leaked their plans then?” a thoughtful Carl wondered.
“Bad idea, unless you got video evidence. If your claim gets dismissed as false, then you’ll definitely have no friends as the racers will think you’re trying to smoke someone out just because you don’t like them. By the way, in general – I advice just steering clear of their title fight. Don’t know about Hilary, but if Chester finds out you’ve messed with him, it could get ugly. He’s not above making things personal if he needs to.”
“Interesting... well, will keep that in mind. Will you at least come to the track and cheer me on?”
“Hmm, I’m a little disappointed you’ve never visited my apartment yet... but I do have some free time, and crave for quality racing for a change. So the answer’s yes. I can also paint a big banner with your name on it, if you’d like.” Kevin said, getting more excited as he spoke.
“That – err, won’t be necessary.” Carl was quick to dismiss the idea.
With Kevin’s refusal to sabotage, Carl was beginning to think that his earlier thought of having some friends distract Chester on the sidelines – ironically just like what the alleged spectators did to him in qualifying – wasn’t going to work too favorably if what Kevin said about the stewards was true. At a moment like this, Carl was glad he still had his bumpers to work with, and ramming Chester was easy to disguise as an accident anyway. He just hoped he would be able to catch up quickly, being forced behind him on the grid by those silly tokens...
On race day, Carl felt surprisingly chilled out. He’d had no bad dreams or unexpected head injuries, and was generally feeling more excited than worried about how the race would turn out. As long as someone didn’t punt him into the harbor on the first lap, he figured he was going to be just fine – one doesn’t fluke their way to a fourth fastest qualifying lap, he thought. The only part of the morning that did bother him was, probably ironically, the moment when Sweet, Ryder and Smoke dropped by along with some other gang members such as LB to wish him good luck, and that they’d all be cheering him on. All Carl could think of when looking at them was how he didn’t have the heart to ever tell them what sort of cash he was playing with for extra profit’s sake. Especially Sweet’s reaction would be something he’d never be able to stand – he imagined it to be a particularly painful mixture of raw anger and sad disappointment. At least those thoughts would probably give him the required little bit of determination to win...
Carl barely bothered to listen through to the chief steward’s ramblings at the scene of the pits, only being fixated on getting to race as soon as he could. He spent the last moments before “the most famous words in motorsports” watching as the drivers’ presumed friends and loved ones showed up to offer their final good luck wishes; Arnaud was exchanging French kisses with a lovely young lady, while Deco shook hands with a man who had the longest and darkest hair of any male individual Carl had seen before – he assumed that figure had to be either a big fan of metal music, or someone who actually played it. Switching focus to Cesar, he saw his (former?) good friend receive a hug from an ancient old lady, and one last kiss from Kendl. She noticed Carl as well and walked up to him next, despite Cesar’s gaze suggesting he wasn’t fond of the move.
“Good luck to you too, Carl. Don’t get yourself involved in any stupid sh*t now.” she said, hugging him for the first time in a while. Carl wondered just how much information Cesar had disclosed to her, but maybe it wasn’t a good time to ask.
“We’ll see. One thing’s for sure at least, I don’t plan on losing.”
“There are more important things in life than winning. Try to remember that now, Carl, please.” Kendl said, voice slightly shaking due to worry.
“Except when the Families’ survival might be on the line.” Carl said with a sigh, choosing not to elaborate further. Not that he had time for it anyway, because it was time for her to leave the scene and head to the spectators’ stands to watch the action. One more hug later, Kendl escorted the old lady, who looked to have some back pains, away from the building as well.
“I presume that was your grandma?” Carl heard Deco ask Cesar.
“Yeah... she doesn’t really care for racing much, never did, but y’know, that’s family for you. Always supporting you even in odd situations – well, in my culture at least.”
Deco let out an odd sarcastic cough. “Yeah, right.”
“Any of your familia here maybe?” Cesar asked. Carl wanted to see where this would go, and stayed near the conversing pair on purpose, but without attracting attention.
“Hah! Like who? My parents? The up-to-no-good narcissistic pricks? If they found out about this race, which they thankfully won’t, due to being too elitist for this sh*t, they’d only show up with hopes of seeing me die.” Deco answered in a combination of anger and amusement.
What? Carl was probably even more dumbfounded by the statement than Cesar.
“Man, those two... they certainly were made for each other, their self-centered attitudes complimenting one another so f*cking perfectly, but parenting sure wasn’t their strong suit. Nope. Still don’t know how piling unrealistic expectations on me was supposed to be helpful for the sake of my adulthood. Then again, maybe they just wanted to create a perfect copy of themselves. Another miserable sh*thead who’ll inevitably, at one point, find himself a nice narcissistic wife and make those perfect upstanding citizens the ultimate gift: grandkids, so that they can have some more defenceless people to torment.”
“That’s... that’s...” Cesar stammered. Carl didn’t blame him for not finding any words.
“Thank god for my gir... I mean...” Deco coughed up loudly, looking like he nearly choked on a slightly too big dose of Sprunk. “Where was I? I said, thank god for my buddy who finally helped me see that there was good things in the world as well – if not for that, I probably would be a slave worker in my breeders’ company at this very moment.”
“Your buddy? You mean that heavy metal guy?”
“I think he prefers black metal, I don’t exactly remember. And no, not him. He only came later on. I’d tell you the whole story, but eh – it’s so long that we’d just miss the race. Don’t worry about it too much, I’m just ranting. Too much sugar drinks, maybe.” Deco said, emptying the Sprunk can with one last gulp and tossing it into the garbage.
“I suppose I can only say I’m sorry for what you went through.” Cesar said. That was what Carl liked about him, the sympathy he often offered – what a shame he didn’t extend it Carl’s way though.
“Well, on the bright side, I can say I’ve emerged victorious. Won’t be long now, and I’ll have the census bureau recognize Deco as my official name. Yeah, those sh*tbags who think they’re big because they came from ‘the richest block of Hepburn Heights’ soon won’t even have anyone in existence using a name given by them. But that’s enough about me. How’re your parents?”
“I’m afraid they’re both dead.” Cesar said somberly. “But perhaps I should be glad they were still good, loving people when they still were around...”
“Attention all drivers, could you head outside and walk up to your cars?” an announcement came on the intercom. Deco was a bit disappointed as he’d have liked one more Sprunk as a good luck charm, but the rest were just glad the wait was finally over. The cars had been lined up on the pit straight nice and clean, into two-wide rows, with Carl’s ZR-350 in its correct spot on the left hand side of the second-to-last row. He mimicked whatever the others were doing and just stood upright outside his car, on the driver’s side, waiting for the announcer’s next command.
“And now, before we get going, it’s time to go through our ever-so-important rules!” the announcer called out, and Carl could see from the body language of other drivers that they loathed this part. On the right side of the course, a dorky man stepped on a hastily constructed stage, and a few mic adjustments later, began to explain the regulations in one of the most boring, vacuum cleaner-esque voices Carl had ever heard, reading straight from a sheet without ever pulling his head up and taking any kind of look at the racers.
“Rule 1: Use of any sort of weapons against another racer is strictly prohibited. Rule 2: Use of Nitrous Oxide or any other substance that can give you a brief speed boost is prohibited. Rule 3: Having non-contestants purposefully hinder the race of another driver is especially prohibited, and will result in persecution.”
The first three rules could’ve sufficed, but for some reason, the nerd kept going on and on with his ramblings, and Carl began to feel the rules only got weirder as he went on. Apparently it was illegal to throw live snakes or mice into an opponent’s car mid-race, or to spray the race stewards with freezing water from a fire hose at the race’s conclusion, for instance.
“And as for rule 34...” the dork uttered several painful minutes later. Arnaud was no longer even concealing his yawns.
“Hey, jackass!” Carl almost jumped as Deco all of a sudden shouted at the man.
“W-what now? I think this is a rather important rule...”
“And I think we all know these by now, so why don’t we cut the crap and get going already? Besides don’t you see how goddamn cold it is here?” Deco exclaimed, probably still a bit angry after the rant about his parents – or breeders, or whatever. Carl could get behind that statement, as a few rows ahead he saw people like Bruce, James and José already shaking from the cold air.
“Eh – umm – err – I’m not entirely sure this is...” the dork was trying to defend himself.
“And in this race, your 34th rule is hardly even relevant in the first place.” Arnaud followed up.
Another loud announcement soon followed suite. “Erm, yes, I suppose it’s best you guys get into the cars. We don’t want anyone catching a cold now.”
That was the best thing Carl had heard all day. He stepped in the ZR-350, made sure his seatbelts were on place, turned on the heat to compensate for that cold air outside, and glanced over to the stage where the race’s guest of honor – Madd Dogg – had now turned up.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!” the rapper shouted at the mic, prompting a cheer from the crowd as eighteen engines fired up and were ready to go. They’d ride for one and a half laps at slow speed and in line, warming up their tires before starting the race at the front straightaway just near the Ganton Gym – the pit road being half a lap away from the actual start line due to the docks having much better space for storing all the hot rods.
Moving forward with the line once it was his turn, Carl noticed the starting grid had been projected onto several big screens around the track to help the spectators notice where their favorite would be standing. The series appeared to be mostly informal as everyone was referred to with their first name – at least Carl’s wasn’t misspelled.
1. Mario 2. Logan
3. Darren 4. David
5. Sebastian 6. Mikhail
7. Sven 8. Ken’ichi
9. Chester 10. José
11. James 12. Bruce
13. Cesar 14. Hilary
15. Carl 16. Arnaud
17. Gao 18. Deco
Carl saw no familiar faces in the crowd alongside the track during the pace laps, which was unfortunate as he’d have liked a boost of morale at a time like this. The closer they got to the starting line, the more pressure was starting to build up inside him – somehow he was going to need to catch up to Chester before he’d clear the slower cars up front...
The crowd cheered as the cars settled into a two-wide formation again and arrived at the start line, where the flagman was ready to give them the ‘go’ command. When the green flag waved, Mario and Logan accelerated forth first, while some drivers behind them reacted a bit slowly to the start and immediately had the guy behind them jump ahead. Carl was among the slow starters, having not anticipated the situation very well, and saw Arnaud breeze by on his right side immediately as the race began. Gao Wong was also trying to make a move on him, but Carl blocked him rather easily and instead got shoved forward, which helped him catch back up to the tail of other cars. Up ahead, he already saw Hilary squeeze his Sabre between James and José when they crossed the tall bridge, and Chester forcing himself on the right side of Mikhail and Darren, who had been a particularly slow starter and was already being passed left and right.
Coming into the first corner, a traffic jam was soon formed as Logan presumably got hit from behind, nearly spun, and stacked up many drivers behind him. The outside line was the way to go here, and Carl heftily followed in Cesar’s exhaust fumes, going by numerous cars that struggled to get up to speed, Arnaud included. He couldn’t see the front of the pack now, but Chester was certainly going for the lead in a hurry, and Hilary was trying to force his way forward as well, at the expense of Ken’ichi, whom he pushed to the run-off area as they passed the pits. In the next corner, Carl made a nice, clean move on Cesar, and also bypassed James with the same move as the man in a black Jester had slowed up to avoid Ken’ichi. In a surprisingly good first part of the race, Carl was already up to the top ten and charging, though not as hard as the contenders.
It was a few more corners later that the trouble started. Mario at the front was holding up almost every other car behind him, and Sven was the first to attempt making a move on him – unfortunately, at the exact same time, Chester was trying to do the same on Sven to already get the lead. There wasn’t enough space for all three cars, and sure enough, Chester clipped Sven who crashed into Mario, who then spun directly in front of Chester’s red Turismo that also spun off. The track was rendered almost completely blocked, and in the few seconds that he had to react, Carl chose to follow in the tire tracks of Sebastian, bypassing the crash from the exact opposite direction from Hilary, who nearly crashed into Chester and had to take the long way around his car, probably either cursing his luck or laughing his ass off at his rival’s misfortunes. It was only after the dust settled that Carl realized he was now in third place – only Mikhail and Sebastian were left in front of him, both of them considerably slow qualifiers.
“Holy f*ck. Better not lose concentration now.” he thought, checking his mirrors just to be sure. No one was immediately behind him: the next driver in line, a few car lengths back, was James, having capitalized on the incident. Hilary and Cesar were somewhere further behind, and Chester was presumably at the tail end of the field now, but certainly not out of the race yet. Carl focused on Sebastian now, and decided to make a determined move on him in El Corona – nothing special, just the usual divebomb – but it wasn’t as easy as he’d thought. He probably saw the move coming and pressed hard on the brakes on the outside when Carl went flying down the inside, and having no car to lean on, went wide off the racing line and could only watch Sebastian accelerate back in front with a much better run. Alright, don’t panic now, there’ll be time...
The order remained mostly unchanged when the top three got to the line for the first time to end one out of fifteen laps. Carl got a good run off the final corner – just as he had always wanted to – and was able to pull alongside Sebastian on the bridge, also getting a good slipstream off Mikhail’s car that helped him inch ahead and into second place. Only a few corners later, it was Mikhail’s turn to submit, when Carl made a much more calculated and harder-to-avoid move that pushed the Russian slightly off the line and got the ZR-350 in the lead. Fifteenth to first at the start – how about that? He could already hear the crowd roaring in the pit straight when he passed by them... now all he needed to do was maintain a controlled pace, as he knew Mikhail couldn’t possibly have a shot at him again unless he’d make a colossal mistake...
But late on the second lap, that dream of dominance faded away. Out of nowhere he was rammed nearly into a barrier by a charging car that he thought was a lap-down machine of Mario’s or something – but the red and white colors of that muscle car, and the voice he heard from his communication radio, suggested something completely different.
“Don’t hold up the traffic now!” Hilary laughed at him, and presumably showed off a bit when he power-slid through the next 90 degree corner, leaving some dark red tire smoke for the cars behind to enjoy. Carl cursed at himself, having somehow been able to expect this to happen despite the alliance. Maybe it was too risky to try and push his way past the fatso, but the least he could do was give Hilary a proper run for his money for as long as Chester was nowhere to be seen in the mirrors.
The Sabre Turbo had superior power on the straightaways, but visibly struggled to make some of the corners and slowed down to near walking speed at times, while Carl got through them smoothly and without issue. He managed to get right into Hilary’s slipstream while crossing the smaller bridge out of the docks on the third lap, but his perfectly clean move was ruined at the last second by Hilary taking up the inside line, and blocking him.
“The f*ck’s he thinkin’ now? He this obsessed with leading?” Carl asked himself as Hilary’s bad corner exit slowed him down dramatically as well, and allowed Mikhail to close up on the two with someone else in tow. A quick look revealed the fourth-place car would belong to Cesar, who was certainly more welcome to join the party than any of the other fast guys in the race.
“Hilary, just f*ckin’ move over, Chester’s nowhere in sight and you’re slowin’ us down.” a bored Carl said on the radio, now trying to hold Mikhail back which in turn gave Cesar a good run, moving the Azteca up to third.
“I know – but you haven’t pounded on him yet, haven’t ya? Go do that and then I’ll let you pass.” Hilary responded, again laughing at him.
“Like I’m gonna fall for that. Y’know, you’re gonna be sorry if you cross me now.”
“Hey, all in good time. Can’t let the fans think I’m worse than you though, huh?”
Carl shook his head at the statement, which turned out to be a little mistake as he missed the entry into the next corner, and Cesar and Mikhail would immediately capitalize. Luckily the lead wasn’t going to escape anywhere, as Cesar moved in to hound Hilary within the span of the next couple of corners. Carl was actually quite impressed with his friend’s valiant efforts to overtake the Vice City racer – Cesar simply showed no signs of being intimidated by the aggressive blocking as Hilary tried running him off the track more than once within a lap. Mikhail also tried making a move every now and then whenever Hilary left the door open to block Cesar, but kept getting the short end of the stick.
Carl was finally starting to have enough of Hilary’s antics when he deliberately held back just to try and commit a PIT maneuver on Cesar to get him out of contention. Mikhail was forced to step on the brakes to avoid the situation, which allowed Carl to gain a free position – but he cared even more about giving Hilary some comeuppance that he so clearly asked for. When they arrived in El Corona on the fourth lap, Hilary and Cesar again side by side for the lead, Carl stuck to the back of Hilary’s car and pushed him right off in the corner. The Sabre bounced off a barrier as Cesar got some clear track and Carl followed him into second place – but that didn’t last long as Hilary responded with an even more aggressive move in the very next corner, in turn nearly causing Carl to wreck, and allowing Mikhail through again as well.
“Remember the deal now!” Hilary whined on the radio.
“Real rich comin’ from you. The f*ck was that move about?” Carl asked in outrage.
“Oh, boo hoo. Is the baby crying?” was the response. Carl didn’t even know what to think of it.
The fifth lap was mostly spent in formation, Hilary catching back up to Cesar’s back bumper thanks to some more drifting, and the next two cars following suite. At the start of the sixth, Carl saw from the scoring screen that the top four were only separated by less than a second on the line, but the fifth place racer wasn’t seemingly far away either. Better pick up the pace...
A blue Banshee came flying alongside Carl at that very moment. Arnaud LaRoche had taken a bit longer to weave through slower cars than Hilary or the two locals, but clearly had competitive wheels under him if he could catch up this quickly, from third-to-last starting position. The long front stretch definitely complimented the Banshee’s engine power just as it did the Sabre Turbo’s, and by the time they reached the braking point in the docks, Hilary and Arnaud had weaved past Cesar from both sides, while Mikhail and Carl struggled to just maintain the draft in their slightly slower machines.
Arnaud’s presence was certain to complicate things further, and his sudden appearance made Carl wonder if Hilary was still mad about the French fellow using a token – not that it should’ve mattered now that they were the two leaders anyway. Nonetheless, Arnaud raced his friend surprisingly aggressively, leaning on the Sabre as he claimed the lead, and was followed through by Cesar, while Hilary struggled to get up to speed.
“Look now, you f*cking stupid slow piece of sh*t Sabre, he’s getting away!” he yelled, probably having accidentally switched his radio on. Carl was not the only one to hear it either, because immediately after that he heard a response.
“Aww, did it backfire?” Chester jeered.
“Go – go bite yourself!” Hilary replied, again on the public channel. Multiple people were heard laughing at this, Sven included, whom Chester quickly shut down by telling him what a useless turd he was and that his license to race should’ve been taken away at Stilwater already.
As it turned out, Hilary was still not giving up the lead. One more powerslide later, he was almost glued to Cesar’s back bumper, and used a strategic move to shove Cesar into Arnaud in the next corner, getting both cars out of shape and sliding alongside the Banshee. The two had a drag race across the bridge out of the docks, but Arnaud was forced to yield as Hilary had the inside line for the next right-hander, where he made sure to take up the whole track width to prevent a follow-up move into the turn up ahead. Carl felt he was starting to get stuck behind Mikhail, who was taking everything out of his car now to keep with the top three, and even made some sliding maneuvers to ensure that, though they were significantly less impressive than Hilary’s. In the final hairpin, Arnaud once again forced himself down the inside of Hilary, making contact and causing both to get a bad run out of the corner, but at least he got to wave at the fans as he was registered the leader in the beginning of lap seven.
Carl, on the other hand, got a great corner exit, and was finally looking to make his move on Mikhail and challenge Hilary again – but he wasn’t quite alone as this time another car flew right past both of them in the middle of the bridge, and it was the one he did not want to see, particularly with so much distance still to go. If Arnaud’s Banshee was fast, Chester’s Turismo was like former on steroids – such was the speed advantage that he gained on a straight line. Carl could only assume Chester had done some Hilary-esque driving to shove all the slower men out of his way, otherwise there was just no chance of him moving in on the leaders this quickly. At the very least, this could’ve meant a chance for him to run the runt off the track, and properly fulfill his agreement with Hilary – he just had to make sure Chester wouldn’t get to the abandonment issues-ridden freak first. As of now, he was forced to settle for fourth place, trying to ram Cesar out of his way but instead ended up pushing him past Arnaud and into second, right behind Hilary who had made another move for the lead when Carl wasn’t looking.
“Don’t check your mirrors now, unless you wanna poop your pants!” Chester giggled on the public radio, being certain to announce his arrival to those who didn’t notice yet. Carl wondered if the brat still remembered him, and made his presence known by giving the Turismo a light nudge on a corner exit. Chester may have been quick, but his car control was horrendous, as that small touch almost made him spin – it cost Carl a bit of ground though as Mikhail yet again took the opportunity to pass them both, visibly showing a thumb up as he drove by.
Chester was still in front of Carl, so it was time to switch to a more direct approach. Back across the harbor and on the mainland, at the first right-hander, Carl forced the ZR-350 on the inside of Chester, and leaned on him with all the weight of his car to move ahead while wasting as much of the boy’s time as possible. Sadly the next corner was a left-hander, and the cars were still together door to door, which allowed Chester to do the same trick to Carl and nearly force him into a wall, which he narrowly avoided with some hard braking. However, that little delay was enough for Gao Wong to sneak past in his black-and-yellow Bullet.
“Oh, f*ck, not that guy as well!” Carl screamed, only after making sure the radio was switched off. It was like all the fast guys were piling to the front of the pack now, making his job harder and harder every lap. He just kept losing positions even though the leader was within his sights at all times, and knew that if just one driver made a successful overtake on Hilary and managed to escape, it’d be game over for him. It was best to switch to a more aggressive, daring strategy and forget about wrecking Chester until the end-game, if he was still around.
One thing was for certain, though. The racing was awesome, and there was no telling how much more enjoyment Carl could’ve got out of it if not for the betting and the dangers associated with it. He wanted to share his excitement with someone, and found his frequency while following the pack to start lap eight.
“Hey, Bruce. Not much of an ass-whooping show now, huh? F*ckin’ seven-way fight for the front!”
“Glad you like it. Where are you on the track?” Bruce’s slightly emotionless voice asked.
“Front stretch, right on Chester and Wong’s tail lights.”
“Uh huh. Check your mirrors.” Bruce said. The comment was odd, but Carl did what was told, mostly because he had his hopes up that the Alpha would be closing in, and he could even ask Bruce to rough up Chester for him if he couldn't do it himself for some reason...
Nope, not quite. What Carl did see, however, was a small bright yellow dot that kept getting bigger and bigger at a slow, but awfully steady pace.
Half the distance was still incomplete, and the contest for big bucks was far from over.
To Be Continued.